Tom Guerin's best mate killed his mum before going on Upper Hutt rampage
Tom Guerin's mother died saving his life from an axeman he used to call his best mate.
Guerin said he could not understand how the boy he grew up with transformed into the "monster" who turned on him, hacked his mother to death, then attacked two other people in the Upper Hutt suburb of Timberlea on December 11 last year.
Sandra Guerin, 55, was an energetic and diligent woman, her son said. She had worked a 12-hour shift helping elderly and disabled people the day she was murdered by his childhood friend, Retimana Te Korou Nicholls, 37.
"She's the reason I'm still alive. He's taken one of the good people in the world," Guerin said.
"She was mum, she was dad, she was my best mate. He was my best mate."
As well as raising her son alone, she always had a bed and supper for Nicholls, or Mana, whom they had known since he was 5.
Tom Guerin had been in remission from non-Hodgkins lymphoma since 2008, and said Nicholls shaved his head during his chemotherapy treatment.
As Nicholls lay atop him on the night of the attack, trying to land another blow with a tomahawk, Guerin wondered what had gone wrong.
"I thought, 'What the f... are you doing? You're my mate, I've never done anything to harm you'."
Nicholls pleaded guilty to murder, wounding and assault in the High Court at Wellington yesterday. A prosecution summary detailed the events leading up to the day of the attack.
Shortly before the murder, Nicholls had admitted to his long-time partner that he had been having an affair. They argued on the day of the murder, and Nicholls later drove to the Guerins' house in Blueberry Grove.
His agitated state concerned Tom Guerin. They went to the garage, where they smoked cannabis, and Nicholls said he had also been taking amphetamines.
Guerin gave him a glass of water, which he said tasted metallic.
He asked whether Guerin was trying to poison him, then lunged at Guerin with a tomahawk he had hidden under his jacket, hitting the side of his head and arm as he tried to block the strike.
Nicholls struck again, saying, "Just take it, shut up, die."
Guerin cut his hands wrestling the tomahawk off Nicholls, and screamed to his mother for help.
She came to the garage and Nicholls punched her to the ground, knocking her out.
Guerin grabbed the tomahawk and ran to neighbours, who called the police.
Nicholls picked up an axe and killed Sandra Guerin with the first blow to the back of her neck, then landed at least three more blows, virtually decapitating her.
Guerin said his "petite" mum had stood up to Nicholls, a 6ft 4in bodybuilder, and saved his life.
He could not erase the sight of her body from his memory. "I saw more than you would ever want to see of anyone you care about."
Nicholls then went down an alley to another house, where he tried the door, but it was locked. He asked where to find Kane Love, who lived next door.
The pair had known each other about six years. Nicholls stood behind a vehicle in Love's driveway, hiding the axe from him.
He threw a bag of cannabis at Love and, as Love looked down at it, Nicholls swung the axe, fracturing Love's skull.
The handle broke, and Nicholls hit him three more times in the jaw, chest and shoulder with the axe's head, then tried to stab him with the broken handle.
The pair wrestled and Nicholls was thrown to the ground.
Then Nicholls walked away and grabbed Diane Misa, a stranger, around the throat and tried to hit her with a mop she was carrying.
Police arrived and pointed a pistol and Taser at him. It took the officers and two neighbours to subdue him.
Yesterday, Guerin and Love, who had not known each other before the murder, sat shoulder to shoulder in court as Nicholls pleaded guilty to wounding them, assaulting Misa, and murdering Guerin.
He will be sentenced next month.